Farmers ask Dayton for compromise on buffer proposal

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The proposal is clear: 50-foot vegetation buffers around the state's lakes, rivers and streams that are currently surrounded by crops.

But whether that's actually the right solution is murky.

Gov. Mark Dayton traveled to southern Minnesota Thursday to get feedback and hear questions from farmers regarding his buffer proposal. It would create 125,000 acres of vegetation area, with the hope being nutrients and sediment runoff from farms that can pollute water would be decreased.

The general message delivered to the governor, by those in Austin and Worthington? Work with us.

Worthington

Farmers in Worthington were generally in agreement the status quo isn't sustainable, and more changes need to be made, the Worthington Daily Globe reports.

But one farmer likened the proposal to a "land grab," saying taking farming area away means less potential for business.

Another noted there are other pollution problems, such as sewage getting dumped into waters.

Others said seeking feedback from interested parties rather than dropping the plan on farmers with no warning, would have garnered a more inviting response.

Austin

A big concern in Austin was the lack of flexibility in Dayton's proposal, the Austin Daily Herald reports. One farmer told the governor he's already got 33-foot buffer zones – and asked if adding another 17 feet is necessary.

And again, a farmer said the government was essentially taking land from individuals.

Dayton said his administration would look into some different options, including funding for soil and water conservation districts, and smaller taxes on that buffer zone land.

The case for Dayton's proposal

The main issue is pollution, and it got an extra publicity boost from a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report, which found most of the streams and lakes in the southwestern part of the state are so polluted they are unsuitable for swimming or fishing.

And on Thursday, the Star Tribune reported water in Adrian, Minnesota is severely polluted with nitrates, posing a danger to babies and pregnant women. The paper says the issues there in the town of 1,200 represent the state's larger problem with water pollution.

MPR reports there was some support for the 50-foot buffer zone plan in Worthington.

Their argument: If farmers don't work together and take drastic steps now, things may get worse – and a future solution put forward by the state or federal government may be even more stringent.

About 200 people showed up at each meeting.

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